Oil portrait of Fanny Elssler as Venus by Natale Schiavoni


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Schiavoni's oil on canvas painting takes after Titian's masterpiece 'Venus of Urbino' (c. 1534), itself related to the painter Giorgione's work 'Sleeping Venus' (which Titian helped to complete) of 25 years previous. Like Schiavoni's painting, it portrays a reclining female nude as the Roman goddess Venus. Also like Schiavoni's painting, it is proudly sensual and erotic.

However, unlike Titian's painting, the subject of Schiavoni's work, Fanny Elssler (Austrian, 1810-1884) was a well known figure in her own time. Fanny Elssler is regarded as one of the great ballerinas of the 19th Century. Born in Vienna in 1810, Elssler first appeared in the Paris Opera Ballet in 1834, where her talent for dramatic, sensual performances was quickly recognised.

Natale Schiavoni was born in 1777 in the Italian town of Chioggia, near Venice. He travelled around Italy during his career, where he made a name for himself as a skilled painter of portraits and history paintings, and was particularly known for his erotic portraits of nude female figures. He has had his work exhibited at the British Museum, as well as the Vienna Museum and the National Gallery of Berlin.

The present painting depicts the nude full length figure of Fanny Elssler reclining on a chaise longue. She is shown reclining on a white sheet, holding a hand mirror in her left hand. Behind her there is a red velvet draped curtain, which has been partially opened to reveal a small dog perched behind. It is set within a finely carved giltwood frame, and signed and dated 1843. The dimensions for the canvas and the frame are as follows:

Canvas height 118cm, width 151cm
Frame height 142cm, width 175cm, depth 9cm


Country of Origin
Date of Manufacture
19th Century
Classical, Portrait
Giltwood, Oil on Canvas
Brown, Gold, Pink, Red


142 cm / 55.9 inches
175 cm / 68.9 inches
9 cm / 3.5 inches


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